Saturday, December 24, 2011

Favorite Christmas Videos

Every year there are a few videos that go viral at this time of year. Here are a few of my favorite from the past years.

Digital Nativity

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

Mr. Bean

Santa's Lap

My Buddy Josh Griffin and his team down at Saddleback put this one together this year.

Christmas Rap from HSM on Vimeo.

Nintendo Sixty Fooooouuuurrrr!!!

Northpoint iPad Christmas

My buddy Jake Rutenbar did this one  few years ago.

Merry Christmas from Grolsch & the Swingtop Philharmonic Orchestra

Preston Leatherman sings with his iPod in Nashville Mall (we were just there)

Jimmy Kimmel Asked Parents to Give a Fake Gift Several Weeks before Christmas

Angry Birds Interactive Christmas Lights!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Nashville Getaway

At Christmas time we all usually head east to be with family. This year was no different except that we decided to take the kids out of school a little early and do something extra. Jeanne-Ann and I flew out with the kids to Kentucky and dropped them all off with my parents. Then the two of us headed to Nashville, Tennessee! Four days and three nights at The Hermitage...JUST US!!! I gotta tell you, it was awesome!
Sitting next to our bed as we walked into our room.
I highly recommend getting away for a while if you can. That's right married peeps...I'm talking to you! I think it is of utmost importance to make sure you care for your marriage. Not just in your first couple of years either. Date nights need to be part of your routine for the rest of your lives. Get away when you can.

Jeanne-Ann and I have had regular date nights since before we were married. It can be really easy to drop out of that habit once you are married. After all, you eat meals together at home, watch movies at home together, hang out together at home. That's great. It's also great to get out every now and again. I vote the more the better. It does not have to be expensive. We will sometimes go to the local bookstore and grab a drink ad sit and read next to each other. That may not sound very romantic, but we enjoy doing that together. Find what you enjoy and go do it. Groupon is a great way to go out for cheaper too. I have tons of ideas for dates on the cheap to dates with tons of cash money! Maybe I will write that post another day.

So we headed to Nashville. I want to hit a few highlights of our trip:

* The first night we walked around Legendary Venues and I said, "One of these local honky tonk bands is going to be doing major headlining shows one day. The rest will be doing these honky tonks for the rest of their lives."

* Centennial Park was a cool place to walk around. In the park you can find the only life-size replica of the Parthenon from Greece. That was amazing to see.

* J. Alexander's was a good place to eat, but for lunch it was a bit pricey for my taste.

* Vanderbilt University is where we spent Thanksgiving together 15 years ago. I was having vocal surgery and it is the best in the country, perhaps the world.

* Gigi's Cupcakes - it was one of the most "girlie" places I have been in a long time. I got three cupcakes, but should only have gotten one. It was soooo rich!

* Rocketown - a dream since I was in college. This is the place that Michael W. Smith started as an outreach many years ago. I remember thinking how cool it would be to go to this place.

He also had a song a song called Rocketown. It was huge in my world back then. We actually put it on in the car as we were driving to it.

I looked up online and it said there was Bboy practice. I was pretty pumped to see that. It turns out there was some band (Sophie the Whale) playing for about 15 teenagers. It was loud, but I still smiled and soaked it in for 30 seconds.

* Pancake Pantry - this was another place that was recommended to us and hit the list of top 10 things to see/do in Nashville on We had to wait in line outside, but it was totally worth the wait. It's just one of those hole in the wall places, but the food is delicious! I had Caribbean pancakes and Jeanne-Ann had french toast. Soooo yummy!

* Ryman theater - this is where the Grand Ole Opry was/is at. There is a ton of musical history here! This is where Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl and Elvis (and TONS of other amazing artists) got their starts. We got a very cool backstage tour. Buddy was our tour guide and has been working there since 1964. He knew all the stars that worked there. Now, I have NO idea what he said because he spoke some language that I'm not sure is an actual language. There is a video of him included. Enjoy.

The Johnny Cash Room

* Wildhorse Saloon - this was an old warehouse that someone bought and turned into a 3 floor restaraunt/bar/dance hall. Another top 10 place and it is amazing! The atmosphere is fun and very cool. They have a bunch of fun horses around the place and line dancing lessons every night. After the lessons were over there was a whole bunch of line dancing to be had until the live band came on. The Buchanan Boys were great. More line dancing then too. Such a blast! Wanna see?

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Bex told me she saw this place on Ellen so I looked it up. We missed the Swaggin' Wagon by 2 days!

* Panera - a place Jeanne-Ann likes to go on a date. We went there a couple of times for a "hold me over" meal.
We ran into Elvis a few times.

So, care for your marriage. You will build memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives. Don't make excuses. We all have places we spend money and those are the places we place value. Value your marriage. Go do something this week that you haven't done! I would love to hear about your date ideas! (maybe even where you decide to go this week)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shepherds and Angels

For the last several years we have been doing another tradition. This one is a collaboration. Along with our friends the Condellos and Unwins and Prinzs we do what we call the Shepherds and Angels party. All of the kids dress up as shepherds or angels...or animals and we have a birthday party for Jesus.

Brian usually sits down and reads the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2 (yes, the same passage that I referenced in my last post) and the kids act out the story. There is plenty of comedy in this version of the story as the kids are just plain funny. This year Karston decided he would be a sheep. He took one of the babies' blankets and sheep pillows and wrapped it around himself. It was perfect. His buddy Noah was a donkey and that made me laugh.

Jennifer Gates (aka Jenga) played the part of Mary and Haakon played the part of baby Jesus. He was perfect for the role! He just laid there and soaked it all in. To let you in on the inside I am included the video from this years performance. Enjoy.

After the performance is over we all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and enjoy some birthday cupcakes. It is quite the celebration. Craig usually brings his guitar and we sing all sorts of Christmas carols and 80s rock tunes like Every Rose has its Thorn.
Haakon LOVES the guitar...doesn't matter if its me or Craig playing.

I love that we have these kinds of traditions. I want my kids to know the story of Jesus. I want them to be familiar with it. It's the single most historic and life altering story ever!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Living Nativity

Last weekend Jeanne-Ann and I took the babies up to Fox Island and spent 24 hours with the Manns! It was a really great time to be together with some really great friends. We got there in time for church and sat under the tutelage of Josh again! I love being in different churches as it broadens my scope of how church happens outside of my own church.

After church was over we went to a cool pizza place for some lunch and then back to the house for naptime (babies) and hang time for the adults. (Kynzi and Karston stayed with friends as they had school on Monday). We chatted and chatted. So good to be with friends and refresh the soul. Then we decided to go to the living nativity in town. Last year they apparently had around 4,000 people come through the 2 days that they were there. They were expecting over 5,000 this year.

We had the option of doing the drive through or the walk through. It was suggested that we do both. After we turned onto the road where the church was holding the living nativity we decided to do the walk through, as the drive through line was super long. Well, as it turned out, the walk through line was super long too. It was also bitter c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-old!!! We went onward anyhow. Thankfully you could walk into the church for some snacks, hot chocolate and warmth while you were in line.

There were shepherds in the front fields with sheep and donkeys. A guy was riding around on a horse. Everyone from the church was involved and dressed as if they were from the time of Jesus' birth. There were town greeters (an elderly couple who had been doing this for 13 years...if my memory serves me right); people selling things like spices, woven carpets, etc.; people giving henna tattoos; angels singing and of course, the nativity with Mary, Joseph and Jesus!

It was a very cool experience. The church did a phenomenal job and it was cool to take our babies through it. As I think about Jesus, who was promised to come to earth thousands of years ago, I think of Kynzi and Karston, Haakon and Nyah and Mercy (the Manns' little girl) who were promises to us. Jesus was chosen and so were our kids. God chose each of them perfectly for our family!
Happy family
Bundled up
Angels tell of the birth of Jesus
I think Joseph looks like Zach Galifianakis

Jesus, who was fully God, became fully human as well. A concept that is hard to comprehend at times. You can read the story of Jesus birth here, found in the Bible in Luke 2:

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus
 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.  4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
 21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Some of you reading this already know this story and it is part of your story; some of you have heard it but it is not part of your story; some may be reading this and you have never even considered this; you may even think it is all a bunch of malarkey. Wherever you sit, I hope that you would at least consider what this means to you. The reality of this story has changed my life. Of course it goes beyond the birth of Jesus. It includes His life on earth and his murder on a cross and His coming back to life and returning to heaven. That was needed in order to cover over my sins. I had to confess my sin and receive His free gift of forgiveness too. It includes the fact that He is still alive today and that I am able to have conversation with Him today (prayer). I think I will post my faith story in a blog in the near future.

Consider Jesus this Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Tradition...Festival of Lights

Traditions are important. We have many of them. How about you?Today I want to share with you one of our traditions.

Every year we bundle up and load into the van and drive through the Keizer Festival of Lights. It is the place I wish I lived in town this time of year. You see, they have a route set up through a neighborhood about 1 1/2 miles from our home where people put up massive amounts of lights and many people along the route participate. It is a Griswald dream come true.

I LOVE decorating for Christmas. If I could set up my lights with LED and program it myself I would. Alas, we live on a private street with 4 homes. There is not a lot of traffic on our street. That is a great thing when the weather is nice and the kids want to play in the street. It's not great if you want to set up lights for all to see. Here is a video of the kind of decorations I dream of doing someday.

That being said, I still set up lights every year and do it as nice and close to overboard as possible. I don't live in that neighborhood, so we all drive over and take the winding journey at 2 miles per hour behind hundreds of other lookie looers. One home has Santa and they do a canned food drive. That is pretty cool. Some have their families' names on giant wooden Christmas stockings or snowmen or reindeer. Some have music set up with changing colored lights. There are many blow up Santas and reindeer on roofs, etc. It's pretty great. There is the occasional home that has 4 or 5 strands of lights thrown on a bush here and there and you suddenly start to judge them. You actually start judging homes that would be knock outs in normal neighborhoods, but not in this one.

Jeanne-Ann also makes hot chocolate or caramel hot cider for everyone. This year Kynzi and Karston put down the seats in the very back, placed blankets and pillows on the ground and played games as they sang Christmas carols. Most of it was lovely, but I don't know the right term for this:

It was interesting to note that the Salem Christmas Lights Parade was tonight as well, but the kids wanted to drive through the Festival of Lights.

Jeanne-Ann would mention a particularly awesome house and the kids would look up from their games and then back to the game and singing.
My favorite. It went between 2 homes. Love that the neighbors collaborated!
I wish this was in the neighborhood, but it's from Chicago.
Could make a cool background.
I like the notes to Santa.
This was only in Wilsonville today. Not south or north of it.
Just there. Got me ready for the Festival of Lights experience.
Randomly at Bridgeport.
It was a really great night! Do you have any fun pre-Christmas traditions?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Christmas Tree Lighting

The other night I was taking Kynzi to a friends house for an overnighter birthday party. On our way we drove past Riverfront Park and there were a ton of people there, lights and a TV camera crew. I had no idea what was going on. After I dropped off Kynzi I decided to drive back past the park. There was still a pretty big crowd. If you know me, I can't not pull in and see what's going on.

After driving around looking for a parking spot a police officer on a bike told me I could park right up front! Sweet! I carried Haak and Nyah out to see the lighting of the Christmas tree! It was pretty cold outside, but holding my two babies kept us all warm. We stood around for a while. A lady came up to me and said, "Sir. You have the most beautiful babies in the world! You are so blessed." (smile...I know!)

Suddenly a fire truck came with lights blazing. Then they hoisted Santa Claus up on the ladder. Very cool. They raised him to the top of the tree where he placed a dove. Then we had a 10 second countdown and they lit the tree.

Cheers all around. Santa came down and handed out candy canes. We squeezed our way to him and then ran into some old friends who just moved back from 5 years in San Diego.

They told me they would never get near Santa at a lighting of the Christmas tree in San Diego. It's part of what they love about Oregon. After chatting for a while I saw that Santa was still around and no one was around him anymore. So we took a quick pic with him. Nyah was OK with, Haak was not impressed. Haha. It was cool.

I love being able to take little moments like that, especially when they are totally unplanned. I often live life with little margin and I love when I have plenty of margin. This night I was in no rush to get anywhere. I prefer to be in that kind of place. It's good. It's good for me. If I am having to run from one thing to another and not have room to breath I know I lose out along the way. I don't want to do that. I want to breath, even though I love the hustle and bustle.

So, because I am in a season of margin I got to do something fun, cool and spontaneous with my babies!

Have you been to a Christmas tree lighting in your town?

Have you done something spontaneous recently?

Friday, December 02, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Blog

Between now and Christmas I am writing 12 blogs. Some will be holiday themed and some will be random musings. (and yes, I will include my 30 day phtotography challenge) I have needed some inspiration and my great friend Bex suggested we do this. We did a 30 days of blogging together last year, so here we go.

Last night we did an annual family activity. We made our gingerbread house. This is always a fun experience. My roll is to get the walls and roof up and "glue" them together with the frosting. This frosting did not do a great job, but it worked. Kynzi and Karston typically take care of the decorations. Each year I have had less and less to do with that part, unless they want it more detailed. Then I come in with my surgeon-precise hands and do my work.

As the kids get older, they want to do more of that. They took some serious creative liberties this year with that role. I walked away from the table for just a moment and suddenly spontaneous laughter erupted. I turned to see my children plastering the roof with "snow" and nerds, sweetarts, etc. Serious fun! We also made snowflakes using coffee filters. They had a great time getting creative with that.

What holiday traditions do you have with your family? What are some of your best memories from growing up?
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